RADFORD, VA -- Sophomore Brinson Paolini posted a team-low 71 to lead Duke into second place at the NCAA East Regional on Thursday at the Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils, ranked 16th in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf Coaches' Poll, closed the day with a seven-over 295 to sit six shots off the tournament lead.
"There are a lot of good teams and players here and to have no team under-par obviously shows that you are going to be challenged as a player," said head coach Jamie Green. "You are going to hit some good golf shots that may not be rewarded and hit it in some places where you are going to have to do some scrambling. I am really proud of the guys for staying patient when they encountered a rough stretch or caught a break here or there that didn't go their way. By and large our guys really handled themselves well and stayed mentally in the game. You can see that on the scorecard when they made some birdies coming down the stretch."
Georgia Tech holds the opening round lead after posting a one-over 289 on Thursday. Duke is six shots back in second place with Kent State and Oklahoma tied for third at eight-over 296. Coastal Carolina is fifth with a 299 and following by Virginia Tech (+12, 300), East Carolina (+14, 302), UNC Wilmington (+16, 304), LSU (+17, 305), Virginia (+17, 305), Lamar (+23, 311), Mississippi (+23, 311) and Yale (+25, 313). The top five teams at the end of 54 holes of play advance to the NCAA Championship.
Kyle Scott of Georgia Tech holds the 18-hole lead after shooting a four-under 68. He is two shots better than Oklahoma's Abraham Ancer, while Paolini is among a group of four players tied for third at one-under (71).
Paolini opened the day with three straight pars before posting a double-bogey on the par 4 fourth hole. He added three more pars before clawing back to even-par with birdies on No. 8 and No. 9. The Virginia Beach, Va., native suffered bogeys on No. 10 and No. 11 to slip back to two-over on the day. He recovered with a birdie on the par 5 12th hole and added birdies on No. 13 (par 4) and No. 14 (par 3) to move into red figures. Paolini closed with four straight pars to cap off one of six under-par rounds on the opening day of the NCAA East Regional.
"Brinson came back from a rough stretch to birdie three holes in a row, obviously that shows that he was not losing confidence," said Green. "That is the thing that you have to do well on this golf course. These guys are in the position they are as one of the top seeds in this regional because of their consistency. They have played well and they have got confidence because of that. If you are going to play well this week you can't allow yourself to lose any of that confidence. You just have to play and be committed to what you see and do and let your talent prove to be enough."
Freshman Austin Cody overcame a rocky start to fire a one-over 73 in the opening round. Following a birdie on the par 4 first hole, he had two bogeys and a double-bogey over the next four holes to slip to three-over on the day. Cody, a native of North Charleston, S.C., bounced back with birdies on No. 6 (par 4), No. 7 (par 3) and No. 11 (par 4) to get back to even-par. He dropped a stroke with a bogey on No. 15 before quickly moving back to even-par with a birdie on the 590-yard, par 5 16th hole. Cody bogeyed the final hole of the day and is tied for eighth heading into Friday's second round of play.
"What Austin did better than anything else today was stay focused and not get overly wrapped up in emotions," said Green. "The reality of it was that you are going to hit a golf shot here or there that looks awfully good and just doesn't turn into what you wanted. When that happened to Austin he was able to shrug it off. That is what you have to do out here to play well for 18 and then for 54 holes. He made five birdies on the day so when you see that par is a premium but your are able to make some birdies it shows that he was in a good frame of mind. He was able to stay in the game mentally and not allow himself to get too down when breaks didn't go his way."
Tim Gornik, a sophomore from Slovenia, is tied for 27th after recording a three-over 75 on Thursday. He got off to a terrific start with birdies on No. 1 (par 4) and No. 4 (par 4) to move to two-under. He suffered a double-bogey on No. 8 (par 4) to make the turn at even-par and dropped even further on the leaderboard with bogeys on No. 10, No. 11, No. 12 and No. 13. Gornik battled back with birdies on the par 4 15th and par 5 16th holes to get back to two-over. He carded a bogey on No. 17 before ending the round with a par on No. 18.
Sophomore Julian Suri started began the tournament with a bogey-birdie start before posting bogeys on No. 3, No. 4 and No. 9 to make the turn at three-over. His struggles continued with bogeys on No. 10 and No. 11 before the St. Augustine, Fla., native settled in. He birdied the par 5 12th hole and added a birdie on the 182-yard, par 3 14th hole to get to three-over. Suri nearly recorded the second hole-in-one of his college career on the 243-yard, par 3 17th hole before settling for a tap in birdie. He suffered a double-bogey on No. 18 to end the round tied for 36th with a four-over 76.
Senior Wes Roach is tied for 44th after carding a five-over 77 in the opening round. The Knoxville, Tenn., native registered four birdies on the day but suffered a double-bogey on the front nine and a quad-bogey on the par 4 10th hole to sabotage the round.
Duke opens second round play on Friday at 9 am on the front side of the Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils are paired with Georgia Tech and Kent State. Live scoring for the event is available at www.golfstat.com.
"We have to forge ahead and keep blinders on," said Green. "We can't worry about the teams we are playing with. There is a lot going on on this golf course all at once so we really have to stay focused on what we are doing. That is the only thing that you can control anyway. Everybody needs to be in the best attitude they can be in for the next 36 holes start to finish. If we can do that we will be in good shape. We just have to stay calm, stay patient and stay confident."
*** Duke recorded a tournament-high 22 birdies in the opening round as all five players had at least four birdies in the round.
*** Paolini carded five birdies en route to his team leading ninth under-par round of the season ... he has been under-par in three straight rounds and now has 20 under-par rounds in his career.
*** Paolini has shot even-par or better in six of the last eight rounds played ... he has five under-par rounds in that span ... he ranks tied for 12th at Duke with 31 career rounds of even-par or better golf.
*** Cody matched the team lead with five birdies in the opening round ... his one-over 73 was his 14th round of the season at 75 or better.
*** Cody has now posted a counting team score in eight of 10 rounds as a member of the Duke lineup ... he has played in three tournaments as an individual.
*** Gornik continued his consistent play with his 23rd round at 75 or better ... he has also posted a counting team score in 22 of 25 rounds played.
*** Roach now ranks tied for seventh at Duke with 44 tournaments played ... he is 11th with 125 career rounds played.